We discuss the UK’s departure from the EU and offer some advice on the immediate steps charities should take
On Christmas Eve 2020, the UK agreed terms with the EU on their future relationship. The deal came just days before the transition period came to an end. It draws to a close more than four years of uncertainty over a Brexit deal, following the referendum in June 2016.
The agreement averts the cliff edge of a no deal option, of tariffs, escalating prices, and the potential of further financial hardship for beneficiaries.
From January 2021, new arrangements are in place around the importing and exporting of goods, as well as on travelling, living, and working in the EU. But this agreement is not the end of negotiations. It simply sets the foundations in place and largely focusses on trade and travel.
Details of the impact of Brexit on services are still to be ironed out. Here we explore what we already know, offering some immediate advice to help charities with preparation.
The good news for charities is that they will have a say on how the future relationship will evolve. The 1,400 page UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement specifies that the UK and EU member states need to set up a ‘Civil Society Forum’, which should meet at least once a year and can convene virtually. This is likely to include representatives from charity sector umbrella bodies.
Among those who have welcomed the setting up of the forum is Directory of Social Change director of policy and research Jay Kennedy. He has concerns over the details, however, such as who will be involved and how it will be managed.
From the EU/UK trade deal - a civil society forum may be a good idea, but raises more questions than answers: who runs it, how is membership determined, how is it governed, and who PAYS for the secretariat? https://t.co/ns8xhqoLUP pic.twitter.com/bNSbpzwi7B— Jay Kennedy (@JKENNEDYDSC) January 4, 2021
The setting up of the forum is clearly a development that charities need to keep a close eye on to ensure their views are known among UK and EU politicians.
How data is managed in the future relationship is likely to be among topics for the forum to discuss. This includes the future of the General Data Protection Regulation in UK law. It’s worth noting that a webinar to help heritage charities manage personal data post-Brexit is taking place on 26 January 2021.
While further details are still to emerge around what’s next for Brexit, there are a number of immediate steps charities need to consider around their operations, staff, and work to support disadvantaged communities.
An immediate change for charities to consider is staff travel arrangements to the EU. Under the new arrangements extra checks are in place. These include ensuring passports have at least six months left before they expire. In addition, those staying in an EU country for more than 90 days need to check each member state’s entry terms.
Travel time to the EU may also be longer, as UK citizens will not be able to use fast-track customs and passport control lanes. Some travel specifics haven’t changed, though, such as being able to use a UK driving licence in the EU.
Another key change is around working in the EU. From 1 January 2021, UK citizens no longer have an automatic right to live or work in EU member states. UK charity workers who moved to an EU member state before the end of 2020 can carry on working there, but only if they register as a resident in the country they live in by the end of June 2021.
The new arrangements are inevitably more complicated than when the UK was in the EU and the specific details and application will become clearer as time passes. But the arrangements do present some positive opportunities for charities, including the development of remote working tools, such as video conferencing, social media tools, and collaboration software and apps.
This will ensure UK charities stay in close contact with EU-based colleagues and it will also help to minimise travel, which is especially important in 2021 when adhering to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines and in the long-term it will be helpful for the environment.
Charities should ensure that EU nationals in the UK apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, which is necessary for them to continue living and working here. The deadline for applications is 30 June 2021. Meeting the deadline is especially important for charities supporting vulnerable communities from the EU living in the UK, as well as those employing EU nationals.
EU beneficiaries could miss out on vital support and even be at risk of homelessness, the charities Centrepoint and AIRE Centre have warned. Both charities are offering digital support for EU nationals includes video and telephone appointments.
Charities supporting disadvantaged young people are advised to start checking the Department for Education website for details of a planned £100m Turing Scheme, which will be set up to help students planning to work or study abroad.
The Turing Scheme replaces the Erasmus+ study programme and will target students from disadvantaged backgrounds. There are clear opportunities here for charities looking to support vulnerable young people.